Gabriel Garcia Moreno--Regenerator of Ecuador - Mrs. Maxwell Scott

Home Life

Moreno was elected for Quito in spite of the intrigues of his opponents, but they managed to invalidate his nomination, and to rebel against President Carrion, who, although a victim, as usual, to the Radicals, showed an unworthy weakness at this crisis by offering for personal reasons to throw over some of his party. He was solemnly censured by Congress, and Moreno, brought unexpectedly to the Capital at this moment by the illness of his little daughter, was called upon to save the situation, and might have himself taken office had he wished.

Being charged with the unpleasant duty of signifying to Carrion that his resignation was desired, and finding him unwilling to take the step, he sent this laconic message: "Remember that the welfare of the Republic must be considered of more importance than the life of the man who is leading her to the abyss." Carrion at last sent in his resignation, and was succeeded by Don Javier Espinosa. We find a letter written by Moreno from Guayaquil, after these events, which shows how he regarded them: "I am just back from Quito," he writes to a friend, "where I had been to see my little daughter, who was dying. You know already why Providence took me there. The candidate whom I proposed, the virtuous and catholic Javier Espinosa, was accepted with enthusiasm, even by some of the Reds. . . . We can flatter ourselves on having the best of Presidents. . . . Our poor Ecuador has come through a crisis which might have ended in a disastrous civil war."

Garcia Moreno


We may now leave the political arena for a moment, and consider Moreno under another aspect. The mention of his little daughter brings us to the subject of his domestic life, which his arduous work for the nation unfortunately quite overshadows in the history of his life, so that we only know a few brief facts.

Moreno's charming wife, Dona Rosa, had died some years before this period of his life, and he had married for the second time, Dona Mariana de Alcazar. When he first asked her mother for her hand Madame de Alcazar wept, and answered that she could not grant his request, as she feared that her child's life would be shortened, as Dona Rosa's had been, by days and nights of anxiety. But Mariana loved him; he was accepted, and their marriage was a most happy one, although Madame Moreno's anxieties, we may say, never ceased; while the attempts to assassinate her husband at Lima, and the illness and death of their little girl, initiated her into the great sorrows before her.

Under his naturally reserved and somewhat stern exterior Moreno concealed a most tender heart, and he was never happier than when alone with his family. He was devoted to his children, and when his daughter was taken from him he wept bitterly, exclaiming: 'Oh, how weak I am, I, who thought myself so strong." After this sorrow he centered his hopes in his little son. In 1874 he took him to the Superior of the Christian Brothers to be educated, saying simply: "Here is my son. He is six years old, and what I beg of you is to make him a good Christian. Knowledge and virtue will make him a good citizen. Do not spoil him, please, and if he deserves correction do not see in him the son of the President of the Republic, but an ordinary scholar who must be admonished."

Moreno was also passionately attached to his venerable mother, who lived to the great age of ninety-five, dying in 1873. When his cousin, the Archbishop of Toledo, wrote to condole with him on her death, he replied by a beautiful letter worthy both of mother and son.

After thanking the Archbishop for saying Mass for his mother, he says: "I feel sure that God has already rewarded her admirable virtues. Above all, her beautiful soul was enlightened by the most lively faith I have ever known, a faith capable, really, of moving mountains. Although by nature excessively timid, she was courageous to heroism in facing any humiliation or danger when a duty had to be performed. How often in my childhood, and with what zeal, she tried to make me understand that the only evil to dread here below is Sin. She would tell me that I should be always happy if I knew how to sacrifice material possessions—honors, life itself—rather than offend Almighty God. This letter would never end if I tried to repeat what my saintly mother was, and what I owe her. The greatest favor you can do me is to pray for her, and to recommend her to all the members of our family."

After the death of the little girl Moreno took his wife to his Hacienda at Gualacha, hoping that a quiet life in this beautiful spot, surrounded by woods and meadows, would restore her to health. He himself greatly needed repose, and they hoped for a time of peace and quiet in their own home.

But it seemed as if Providence did not intend him to enjoy peace in this world. On August 13th, 1868, terrible earthquakes and volcanic eruptions convulsed the province of Ibarra. Houses and churches were destroyed, and more than half the population perished, the rest being left homeless, while brigands and half-savage Indians from the mountains appeared on the scene to pillage, murder, and rob.

The Government, appalled at the distress, sent—as usual—for Moreno, and appointed him Military and Civil Governor of the devastated country. "All Ecuador thrilled with new hope when this nomination appeared in the Official Gazette," we are told; and he set out, without losing a moment, for the sad scene, accompanied by troops who were to restore order, and to undertake the work of rescue and reconstruction under his guidance. Moreno appealed to the whole country for assistance. The work of charity, and, poor as he was, himself gave a thousand piastres. He personally superintended the distribution of provisions and the maintenance of the law, and soon the disturbers of the peace disappeared and order reigned, bringing hope and confidence once more to the inhabitants. They were placed in tents, and Moreno drew the plans for a new city to be built on the site of the old town of Ibarra. When all was completed the people came in a body to say farewell to their preserver, whom they looked upon as a father. After receiving the thanks of the Government at Quito he returned home for a brief space—but a Presidential Election was again at hand, and the Conservative Party once more called upon him to take office.

At first Moreno remained silent. In his own mind he had fixed upon General Darquea as the successor of Senor Espinosa. "I do not desire office," he wrote at this time. "If the Reds, however, force me to take it, I undertake, with the grace of God, to save the country in a few months; that done, I will give place to him whom the people shall elect, and who will be, without doubt, General Darquea." The Conservatives, however, did not see the matter in the same light. To them no one could take the place of Moreno, and they continued to press on his candidature. He therefore drew up an electoral address, and then retired tranquilly to Gualacha to await the event.

Moreno's address is long and interesting, and we must quote a brief portion which sums up his never-changing policy. "To conclude," he says, "I ought to make known to the nation the principles which will direct my conduct should I be called to the honor of governing her:—Respect and protection to the Catholic Church: Inalienable adhesion to the Holy See: Education based on faith and morals, and its diffusion among all classes: the completion of the roads commenced, and the making of new ones according to necessity and the means of the country: safety for people, properties, commerce, agriculture, manufactures—Liberty for everyone and everything save for crime and criminals. These last words were the watchwords of his policy, and it would have been well for Ecuador had they been that of the nation.

The moment for action came sooner than was expected, for when it was found that Urbina was once more meditating a, coup d'etat by invasion, Moreno could no longer hold back, and he was appointed temporary president during the crisis. This he accepted, stating, however, publicly that he would, in consequence of this, not go forward for the Presidency, but would resign when congress met.

He at once rallied the Army to the Government, frustrated Urbina's plans, and Ecuador could rejoice that owing to his firmness the counter-revolution took place without a shot being fired. After this fresh proof of his zeal and influence he was, of course, again pressed to accept office, but he absolutely refused, and after giving, on May 16th, an account of his short administration, he returned home and instantly sent in his resignation.

L'homme propose et Dieu dispose, however. On July 29th the Convention met in the Jesuit Church at Quito, where, after a solemn Mass, they proceeded to the election of a President, and by a unanimous vote chose Moreno. Even this did not shake his resolution. He implored the Deputies to consider the motives he had urged and to accept his refusal, but this they flatly refused, "considering that his services were absolutely indispensable to consolidate order and peace, and to place the Republic on a safe and constitutional basis." Thus Moreno had now no choice, and was obliged once more to accept the honor which he had declined for six months, a unique fact, perhaps, in these days of self-seeking and self-interest. Once more the reins of government were placed in his strong hands, and this time he was to bear the burden to the end.

The next day—July 30th—the new President took the oath of office in the cathedral, surrounded by all the civil and military authorities. The oath was as follows: "I swear by God our Lord, and by these holy Gospels, faithfully to fulfill my charge as President of the Republic: to profess the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Religion: to preserve the integrity and independence of the State: to observe and cause to be observed the constitution and the laws. If I keep my word, may God be my help and my defense: if not, may God and my country be my Judges."

Senor Carvajal, an old friend of Moreno's, was the interpreter of the feelings of the nation in his address of congratulation. "Eight years ago," he said, "you took the same oath on the same spot, and nobly did you keep your word. But to-day the obstacles which met you then at every turn have virtually disappeared. You have now full power to carry on the reforms required by the Constitution. You are at the head of a faithful army, and can reckon on the patriotism and morality of a people who, having confided to you their destinies for the second time, have eloquently proved to you their gratitude and appreciation. Above all you can reckon upon the help of that all-powerful God who is always ready to grant the petition of one who has no other aim than the good of religion and his country." Moreno replied in the following noble and prophetic words:—"Submitting to the will of the people represented by the National Assembly, which, paying no heed to my repeated refusals, forces me to take office in view of ever-menacing possibilities, I have taken before the altar the oath demanded by the Constitution. This oath binds me to sacrifice myself, without fear of death, for religion and my country, happy if I were to seal, with my blood, these two great causes. I count on the people, I count on the army—but above all on Almighty God, who will not abandon us in the day of danger."